10 Worst and Best Bedtime Snacks


10 Worst and Best Bedtime Snacks

If hunger strikes in the evening, make an informed decision. The foods to eat and stay away from if you want to go to sleep (and stay asleep!) are discussed here by dietitians. Which foods are wise to eat in the evening and at night? Fried foods, nuts, and fruit.

Who doesn't enjoy relaxing with their feet up while enjoying some popcorn or ice cream at the end of a long day?

While the occasional bedtime snack is acceptable, problems could arise if you end every day with something sweet or savory. According to Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, a dietitian and the author of Skinny Liver: A Proven Program to Prevent and Reverse the New Silent Epidemic — Fatty Liver Disease, snacking later into the night increases the risk of weight gain, obesity, and cardiometabolic diseases.

The built-in survival mechanisms of your body are to blame for the fact that many of us are more likely to reach for unhealthy foods in the evening. According to research, our circadian rhythms—the body's natural 24-hour cycles—increase our appetite and cravings for foods that are sweet, salty, and high in carbohydrates in the evening.

According to researchers, the desire to consume high-calorie foods at night likely contributed to our ancestors' ability to survive during times of food scarcity. However, in the modern world, late-night cravings can add extra calories that, if ignored, can result in significant weight gain. According to research from 2023, eating late at night may mess with our internal clocks and may lead to higher total calorie intake and body mass index (BMI).

Kirkpatrick advises drinking a glass of water or [caffeine-free] tea as opposed to reaching for the snack cabinet as your first line of defense to combat these inborn cravings.

The ideal time to stop eating is two to three hours before bed. According to Kirkpatrick, if you need a snack to lull yourself to sleep because you're actually hungry, you probably aren't eating enough during the day. However, Kirkpatrick advises choosing a small, low-calorie, nutrient-dense snack at this time of day if you do feel the need to eat or have a craving for a quick snack before bed.

Additionally, some snacks contain nutrients that may help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.


Here are 10 Worst and Best Bedtime Snacks

1. Best: Tart Cherries and Juice

Melatonin, a vital hormone for controlling sleep, can be found in tart cherries. According to Kirkpatrick, consuming fresh tart cherry juice or eating them increases the body's melatonin levels, making it a little easier to fall asleep.

Adults who drank 8 ounces (oz) of concentrated tart cherry juice twice daily for two weeks experienced longer and more restful sleep, according to a small study.

Avoid fruit juice concentrates if you're drinking juice because they frequently have added sugar, advises the American Heart Association (AHA). The Cleveland Clinic advises choosing a juice that is labeled as 100 percent fruit juice because it will have more nutrients and fewer additives than a juice concentrate or a juice that has been sweetened. (However, even 100% fruit juice typically contains a lot of sugar. If cherry juice is too tart for you, try dilution with water or plain seltzer.


2. Worst: Ice Cream

According to Jonathan Valdez, RDN, CDCES, owner of Genki Nutrition in New York City, traditional ice cream is high in unhealthy saturated fats and added sugars, which can cause cravings that result in overeating.  In addition, according to Kirkpatrick, "the amount of sugar in ice cream increases blood sugar and makes it harder to get to sleep and stay asleep."


3. Best: Almonds or Walnuts

Kirkpatrick claims that a small handful of nuts will allay cravings and hunger while promoting sleep. Since nuts like walnuts and almonds naturally contain melatonin, protein, and magnesium, they are beneficial for sleep.

Research from 2022 indicates that magnesium intake is linked to better sleep duration and quality. According to the Cleveland Clinic, one ounce (or about 24 nuts) of dry-roasted almonds contains 80 milligrams (mg) of magnesium, making them a good source of the mineral. Just make sure the nuts don't have any or very little sodium added because, according to Kirkpatrick, "salt can disturb the sleep cycle." Additionally, limit your serving size to 1 oz to avoid consuming too many calories and fat.


4. Worst: Chocolate

Like ice cream, chocolate has a tendency to be high in sugar, making it a poor choice for a snack before bed. Given that these bars typically contain less sugar than milk chocolate, you might assume that dark chocolate is a good choice for a late-afternoon snack. However, Kirkpatrick notes that chocolate also contains caffeine, a stimulant that interferes with the body's natural sleep cycle all night long. Furthermore, chocolate contains more caffeine when it is darker (has a higher percentage of cacao solids).

According to U. S. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 1 cup of brewed coffee has about 96 mg of caffeine, compared to 22.7 mg in 1 oz of chocolate with 70 to 85 percent cacao and 12.2 mg in 1 oz of chocolate with 45 to 59 percent cacao. Dark chocolate is still a healthy choice for a diabetes- and heart-friendly snack, but it's best consumed outside when the sun is still shining.


5. Best: Cereal with Minimal Sugar and Low-Fat Milk

For a one-two nutritional punch, combine a bowl of low-sugar cereal with some low-fat milk. Low-fat milk provides the amino acid tryptophan, while cereal with little sugar (Kirkpatrick advises looking for less than 5 g of sugar per serving and at least 3 g of fiber) supplies the body with high-fiber carbs to keep you satisfied. According to Kirkpatrick, tryptophan "produces serotonin in the body, which is converted into melatonin, inducing sleep."


6. Worst: Alcohol

Alcohol consumption right before bed may make it easier for you to fall asleep, but it won't keep you asleep. According to Kirkpatrick, drinking before bed actually interferes with the body's normal sleep cycle. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a stage of deep, rejuvenating sleep where vivid dreams take place, is inhibited by alcohol.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, once alcohol is metabolized, the initial sedative effect wears off as well, which can result in sleep disruption. This may cause you to wake up during the night and sleep either less deeply or for a shorter amount of time. Additionally, according to Kirkpatrick, "[drinking alcohol before bed] can cause drowsiness the next day, making it difficult to complete daily tasks."


7. Best: Yogurt

Melatonin, which is found in dairy products like yogurt, increases the quality of sleep and lowers the number of awakenings, according to Valdez. According to Sleep Doctor, yogurt contains a lot of calcium (272 mg per cup of nonfat Greek yogurt, as reported by the USDA), a mineral that helps build bones and is also involved in the processing of hormones that aid in sleep. (Melatonin and tryptophan would be those hormones. Just be sure to choose plain, unsweetened yogurt, to which you can add fresh fruit, vanilla extract, or cinnamon.

8. Worst: Potato Chips

A traditional late-night snack is potato chips. But Valdez notes that they frequently contain a lot of unhealthy fats and empty calories. In other words, while offering few to no nutrients, potato chips are high in calories and saturated fats. The USDA estimates that one cup contains 140 calories, 8.8 g of fat, 1.4 g of which is saturated fat.

According to Kirkpatrick, the saltiness of chips "can make a person even more hungry and lead to overeating." If you're not careful, you might consume more calories than you need, which could eventually result in weight gain. Not to mention, according to the American Heart Association, eating too much sodium can cause high blood pressure.


9. Best: Roasted Chickpeas

According to Valdez, roasted chickpeas are a nutrient-dense, low-calorie snack that is high in protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are therefore a more wholesome option than salty snacks like potato chips. For instance, a 1 oz serving of roasted chickpeas has 110 calories, 5 g of protein, and 5 g of fiber, making it a good source of the latter.  There are only three ingredients needed for this roasted chickpea recipe from Love and Lemons: canned chickpeas, olive oil, and sea salt (plus any additional spices you like, to taste).


10. Worst: Fried Food

French fries and other fried foods are high in fat, which takes longer to digest than carbohydrates and proteins. When it comes to bedtime snacks, this is a bad idea. Kirkpatrick asserts that consuming fatty, hefty foods right before bed may divert the body's attention from falling asleep. "Fried foods are also more likely to cause heartburn and other discomforts, making it harder for the body to rest before bed," she adds.

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